The House Democrat Taking On Silicon Valley

Politico

“You can’t just ignore facts that don’t prove your presupposed conclusions. That’s not how ‘investigations’ work,” says Carl Szabo. “Especially from the Judiciary Committee? We should be better than that.”

On a warm Friday in October, sun streamed in the window of Szabo’s K Street offices, decorated with thick books on telecommunications law, a LEGO R2-D2 and framed mock patent applications of heavy machinery from the “Star Wars” universe. Szabo is the outspoken vice president and top lawyer for Silicon Valley’s most aggressivelobbying presence in Washington: a group called NetChoice, which counts Facebook and Google among its members.

Szabo’s job is to say what the tech companies don’t want to be seen saying themselves, which, in this case, is that Cicilline is unfairly targeting them. That he isn’t after going after bad corporate behavior but simply taking scalps from some of the highest profile companies in the world. That, despite his declarations that he is keeping an open mind, the result of his investigation is a foregone conclusion. Cicilline, the argument goes, is convinced there’s no competition left in the tech industry. Says Szabo, ever heard of TikTok?

Cicilline’s investigation won’t add up to much of anything, Szabo insists, because there’s no there there. The worry, though, is that he adds his powerful voice to the “cacophony of people complaining about technology”—many of whom, Szabo argues, are motivated, somewhat perversely, by the desire to get their name in headlines smack up against mentions of Facebook, Google and the rest. “I think the whole reason we’re even talking about these groups is because of SEO,” or search engine optimization, Szabo said.

Top 5 Tech Policy Predictions for 2020

Morning Consult

But Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of industry group NetChoice, which typically doesn’t support antitrust actions against large tech companies, sees the continued interest in antitrust as more of a political tool, saying that once someone pulls back the layers of an argument for breaking up big tech companies, there’s nothing substantial there. 

“Once you take more than a knee-jerk analysis of the digital landscape, you realize that there are a lot of competitors out there, that choice is robust and there is no consumer harm,” he said.

Rand Paul vs. Google and Facebook

National Review

Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, a trade association whose members include Google and Facebook, panned the bill as a “special handout” to the news industry and argued that the legislation, despite its intent, could still leave smaller newspapers “out in the cold.”

“What’s concerning about legislation like this is it’s pretty much designed to empower large newspaper conglomerates to circumvent existing anti-trust law,” Szabo tells National Review. “Today, businesses regardless of what industry they’re in are subject to the same rules when it comes to concerns about size and anti-trust. This [bill] is giving a special handout to the news industry, and it’s hard to argue that Rupert Murdoch needs yet another handout.”

Although the 500-word bill states that the negotiations that news companies engage in with Google and Facebook must “pertain to terms that would be available to all news content creators,” Szabo suggested it could still benefit big papers over small ones: “Let’s presume I’m an online company [such as Google or Facebook], and I have to cut this nice sweetheart deal because the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the LA Times have decided to get together and hard bargain negotiated rates. Let’s say the Kansas City Tribune [sic] wants to enjoy that. The online service provider might say, ‘Look, I won’t carry your content because it’s just not going to be worth it to me.’”

NetChoice Response to Andrew Yang’s Tech Proposals

Today, Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang released a slew of tech proposals, covering four main issues:

  • Privacy and Consumer Data
  • The Use of Technology, Especially by Young People
  • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
  • Antitrust Enforcement and Tech

Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice pushed back on Yang’s proposals:

Privacy and Consumer Data

“The current online advertising model enables consumers to access high quality content and sophisticated services for free. Yang’s policy would create more paywalls around content and diminish the presence of free services.”

“On Yang’s internet we will have more paywalls and less content.”

“Americans support the current market structure. By a 3-to-1 margin Americans prefer online services to be funded by targeted advertising rather than paying for them directly.”

The Use of Technology, Especially by Young People

“The surge in access to technology and the internet in the 21st Century benefits us all every day – that’s why tech is so prevalent in society today.”

“For a candidate who claims to focus on “evidence-based policy,” Yang’s most outlandish claims lack evidence.”

“Rather than proposing knee-jerk policy responses to perceived problems, Yang should wait for more evidence on tech’s impact on children and not ignore a recent study that found no link between social media usage and negative impacts on mental health in teens.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

“We must dispel with this myth that because online services moderate user-created content, they are equivalent to the New York Times or the Washington Post. Unlike the journalists at the New York Times or Washington Post, Facebook doesn’t write posts and Twitter doesn’t write tweets — users do.

“The New York Times and the Washington Post’s comment section benefits from the same legal structure and protections as social media businesses.”

“Social media services moderate content to reduce the presence of hate speech, scams, and spam. Yang’s proposal to amend Section 230 would likely increase the amount of hate speech and terrorist content online.”

“Yang incorrectly claims a “publisher vs. platform grey area.” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not categorize online services. Section 230 enables services that host user-created content to remove content without assuming liability.”

Antitrust Enforcement and Tech

“We welcome Yang’s recognition that breaking up tech businesses wouldn’t benefit consumers. The role of antitrust and regulation in the U.S. is to protect consumers, not competitors of successful businesses.”

Carl Szabo testifies Before Ohio State Senate Judiciary Committee on Antitrust

Read the Testimony

Should the government break up Big Tech?

AL.com, SI Live, Penn Live Patriot News, Cleveland.com, NJ.com, Mass Live, The Oregonian

Carl Szabo, vice president of the free-market tech trade group NetChoice, said in a statement that the “proposal would increase prices for consumers, make search and maps less useful, and raise costs to small businesses that advertise online.” Szabo, whose group counts Google and Facebook as members, said that consumers have never “had more access to goods, services, and opportunities online.”

Calls to Breakup Apple, Facebook, and Google Are a Modern Day Fairy Tale

Medium

Captain Ahab, Don Quixote, and Ponce de Leon — there are dozens of tales featuring self-proclaimed heroes chasing white wales, tilting at windmills, or hunting for fountains of youth.

Today we have real life examples of mythical pursuit embodied in the rhetoric of those who claim that technology innovators like Apple, Facebook, and Google are monopolies as the basis for their breakup.

Their claims of technology monopolies are classic stories recycled for modern day audience, yet undermined by reality and history. Unfortunately for them, however, we have seen and re-seen their movies, and the endings never bode well for their cause.

Read more on Medium…

Gongwer – Big Tech Companies Under The Microscope In Field Hearing

Gongwer – Big Tech Companies Under The Microscope In Field Hearing

But Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice, told members of the panel that large online platforms help America’s small businesses.

“For America’s small and mid-size businesses, the bigger the platform the better for reaching larger audiences. Consider the local custom furniture store. Just 15 years ago businesses like this could barely afford to place an ad in a local newspaper, let alone on TV or radio. Thanks to large online platforms, for less than $10 a small business can reach thousands of potential customers and target them more accurately than ever,” he said.

“Large online platforms have given new growth opportunities to America’s small businesses via app stores on the Apple and Android platforms. Software distribution used to require significant outlays for advertising, marketing, and logistics. But app stores allow even small software developers to reach millions of customers at minimal investment.”

Democratic divisions emerge over tackling Big Tech

The Hill

Steve DelBianco, the president of tech trade group NetChoice, called the criticisms “predictable.”

“It plays to their base to show that they’re standing up to big companies and that they care about election security, privacy, violent and extreme content.”